CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH FORTE
Hello! Welcome to my book club! Sit down and have some coffee cake! (I’ve never been to a real book club meeting. Can you tell?) I know you all love to read; otherwise you wouldn’t have come to this (imaginary) meeting. So, we’re here in Okinawa (or will soon be, or wish we still were, or you just think this website is cool so you’re hanging out) and looking for something to read. My suggestions? Glad you asked!
The Yokota Officers Club by Sarah Bird
I first read this book on the porch of my newly emptied house. Our orders were cut, our stuff was gone, closing day for the house was approaching, and soon we would be on our way to Okinawa. I’ve always been a “knowledge is power” kind of girl so I looked for as much information as I could about our future island home. Somewhere on the internet I found mention of this book and they even had it at my local library. I hope you’ve read the kind of book you can’t put down, at the same time dreading not having it to read any more. If not, this is my suggestion.
The author, Sarah Bird, writes about military life as only a true military brat can. In real life she attended five schools in fifth grade and lived both in Yokota and Kadena. Her first-hand knowledge of this crazy life we’ve come to accept as our norm is evident in her writing. She weaves the events of WWII, cultural relations, stresses and joys of military life, life in the proverbial glass house, brothers, sisters, Okinawa and mainland Japan into her semi-autobiographical tale. The main story line is set in Okinawa in the ‘70s and supports a secondary reflection on post-WWII in the Tokyo area. I hate knowing too much about a book before I read it for myself, so I won’t spoil too much for you.
After living over a year in Okinawa and visiting Yokota, I’ve recently re-read this book. It’s still as riveting now, but I have a new level of appreciation. The book is still well-written with a plot, characters, descriptions and dialogue that drive the story. But now I can picture the scenes, smell the smells, and feel the humidity with my own senses.
This book is available through the base library system. Here is a link to the author’s website.
The Girl with the White Flag by Tomika Higa; Translated by Dorothy Britton
I also found out about this second book while investigating Okinawa from afar. I read the reviews on-line, but my state-side library did not have a copy. With our boxes packed and gone, it was not a good time to be buying books. Instead, I had to wait until I got to Okinawa to read it. It is readily accessible on Okinawa. Many DOD middle school students read it as part of their curriculum and it has a place on bookshelves of the BXs and PXs, although it is commonly sold out.
The Girl with the White Flag is a non-fiction narrative written by an Okinawan survivor of WWII and the “Typhoon of Steel.” Tomika Higa was seven years old during those spring days in 1945. Possessions, friends, and family members are stolen by the war, yet young Higa-San is a living definition of “resiliency.”
As I was reading the story, I had to remind myself a few times that this really happened to her. It is amazing that anyone could live through what she did, let alone at the age of seven. It is a story told about childhood told in an easy reading level, but don’t be fooled into thinking it is “just a kid’s book.” If you would like to know more about Battle of Okinawa without sifting through the entire history book of facts, this book can show you about the place we live during a time we are thankful to have missed.
And now it’s your turn! What do you love to read about Okinawa? What’s out there that you couldn’t put down? By the way, does anyone have any good Okinawa movies? And no, Karate Kid Part II doesn’t count!
Other posts on Japanese/Okinawan books: